poetry

Good Trouble

– For John Lewis
This piece was inspired by John Lewis. I started it in early January while watching a program about him. There’s a refrain that I removed but plan to include it as I revise the poem. I wanted to share at least one of my own pieces this month so here it is. As always, I hope you enjoy. 

Picture courtesy of wnyc.org
For some, 

The price paid for

Freedom 

Was blood, sweat and family.

It was water hoses, German shepherd attacks, lynchings, beatings and bombs.

Burned crosses, denial of rights, spit, nighsticks, and below human standards.

Between Reconstruction and Jim Crow 

Liberation was like 

The soil of Africa

Burning inside but too far away to grasp.

For The American Negro

Liberty wasn’t represented by a statue 

It demanded dedication, bodies mutilated, burned and buried in earthen dams or rivers

You couldn’t cry freedom

And expect it to hurry to your side.

You couldn’t get it without Harriet, Anna, Ida, and Angela

Or Marcus, W.E.B, Medgar and Malcolm.

Good trouble paved the way for the freedoms we take for granted today. 

poetry

Orifflame- Jessie Redmond Fauset

For me, women like Sojourner Truth(who’s quoted here) and Harriet Tubman are like warrior queens. These women who wanted freedom so much that they actually put in real work to obtain it. And to ensure that others had it and knew of its importance. When this poem hit my inbox, I just sat with it reading it repeatedly. There is something here that makes all of the slave narratives that I’ve read and taught a bit more personal. It is a mother’s loss, the cataloging of slavery’s effect on women and children and this month when so many mothers lost their children it made me remember how that feeling never truly leaves you.

The featured image is an actual picture of the Bagamoyo ruins in Tanzania. Thanks Nic!

IMG-20111216-00289

 “I can remember when I was a little, young girl, how my old

               mammy would sit out of doors in the evenings and look up at

               the stars and groan, and I would say, ‘Mammy, what makes

               you groan so?’ And she would say, ‘I am groaning to think of

               my poor children; they do not know where I be and I don’t

               know where they be. I look up at the stars and they look up at

               the stars!’” —Sojourner Truth

 

 

I think I see her sitting bowed and black,
Stricken and seared with slavery’s mortal scars,
Reft of her children, lonely, anguished, yet
Still looking at the stars.

Symbolic mother, we thy myriad sons,
Pounding our stubborn hearts on Freedom’s bars,
Clutching our birthright, fight with faces set,
Still visioning the stars!

poetry

Dirt-Kwame Dawes

Poetry is such a personal thing and this month, in particular, makes me realize just how much. During February I try to post pieces that speak to the varied experiences of black people throughout the diaspora and this poem struck a chord with me because of an image that I’d recently seen of an old sharecropper house. Not that only black people were sharecroppers but this poem reminded me of the the picture and I decided to share them both.

Enjoy! And follow planterboy on Instagram for more great images.

I got one part of it. Sell them watermelons and get me another part. Get Bernice to sell that piano and I’ll have the third part.
—August Wilson

We who gave, owned nothing,
learned the value of dirt, how
a man or a woman can stand
among the unruly growth,
look far into its limits,
a place of stone and entanglements,
and suddenly understand
the meaning of a name, a deed,
a currency of personhood.
Here, where we have labored
for another man’s gain, if it is fine
to own dirt and stone, it is
fine to have a plot where
a body may be planted to rot.
We who have built only
that which others have owned
learn the ritual of trees,
the rites of fruit picked
and eaten, the pleasures
of ownership. We who
have fled with sword
at our backs know the things
they have stolen from us, and we
will walk naked and filthy
into the open field knowing
only that this piece of dirt,
this expanse of nothing,
is the earnest of our faith
in the idea of tomorrow.
We will sell our bones
for a piece of dirt,
we will build new tribes
and plant new seeds
and bury our bones in our dirt.

writing

Outlining…It’s Not Just For Academic Writing


As some of you may know, I’m a long-standing member of the pantster party. In the past, I’ve had a general idea of where the story would go and let it try to get there. Even as I progressed through two writing programs I was firmly pantster with a hint of plotter. Over time that has changed to the point where I’m more 50-50. 

When planning for blog posts, I am all about writing things out, trying to figure out my tags and categories and the picture that will accompany it. Even when I’m writing poetry, I am constantly scribbling and tinkering until I think it’s just right. But it took me the longest time to accept how beneficial planning would be when writing fiction.

One of the things that I’ve been toying with while prepping for the new story I’m tackling is outlining. I know, I know…outlining is for academic writing. And it seems like so much work but I’ve found that it is really helping me develop my main ideas(and subplots) for the story. 

Let me explain, by outlining I don’t mean the way that we’ve been taught to do it when writing papers. What I’ve been doing is selecting maybe 10-15 major occurrences/plot points that I know need to take place. I then briefly sketch out each one and below that list, I add some subplot/minor character information that will help build certain elements of the story. I also not down little setting notes that may help me set scenes. 

Doing this is changing the way that I plan but it also helps me commit to getting a set amount of scenes and words per day. Later on this month, I’ll be trying to get out of the house once a day to write and I think this method will help me remain focused. 

Do any of you outline? Or plan your writing? How? Please share. 

poetry

Knoxville, Tennessee-Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni

I always like summer
Best
you can eat fresh corn
From daddy’s garden
And okra
And greens
And cabbage
And lots of
Barbeque
And buttermilk
And homemade ice-cream
At the church picnic
And listen to
Gospel music
Outside
At the church
Homecoming
And go to the mountains with
Your grandmother
And go barefooted
And be warm
All the time
Not only when you go to bed
And sleep